July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Accessing meaning for the groundside of a figure: How long does it last?
Author Affiliations
  • Laura Cacciamani
    University of Arizona
  • Andrew J. Mojica
    University of Arizona
  • J. L. Sanguinetti
    University of Arizona
  • Mary A. Peterson
    University of Arizona
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 71. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.71
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      Laura Cacciamani, Andrew J. Mojica, J. L. Sanguinetti, Mary A. Peterson; Accessing meaning for the groundside of a figure: How long does it last?. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):71. https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.71.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Regions on opposite sides of borders compete for figural status, with the winner perceived as figure, and the loser perceived as shapeless ground. Peterson et al. (2012) tested whether the meaning of a familiar object that loses the competition is accessed prior to figure assignment—a finding that would refute traditional feedforward views. Participants categorized words as naming natural or artificial objects. Before each word, a novel silhouette with a portion of an upright familiar object suggested along the groundside of its borders appeared. Participants perceived the inside of this silhouette as the figure and were unaware of the familiar object suggested on the groundside. With an 83-ms silhouette-to-word SOA, participants categorized words faster when the object suggested on the groundside was of the same versus a different category as the word. Because differences in border curvilinearity between silhouettes suggesting natural versus artificial objects on their groundsides may have been responsible for those effects, in the current experiment we used inverted as well as upright silhouettes. Inversion should eliminate semantic access effects but leave border curvilinearity effects unchanged. Additionally, we tested longer SOAs to investigate how long facilitation lasts. At a 166-ms SOA, words following upright silhouettes were categorized faster when the unperceived familiar object in the ground was of the same versus a different category as the word (p <.01), replicating Peterson et al. This facilitation was not observed for inverted silhouettes (p > .40), demonstrating that our effects are due to activation of the semantics of the familiar objects on the groundside rather than to silhouette border curvilinearity. By a 250-ms SOA, semantic facilitation for upright silhouettes was no longer evident. This study shows that the meaning of potential objects that lose the competition for figural status is accessed prior to figure assignment, contrary to traditional assumptions.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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